Most of our readers out there in the real world understand that we here at The Laser have a slight obsession with the Adventure gaming genre. Something about spending hours upon hours uncovering mysteries, exploring uncharted territories, and solving puzzles just seems to ring true with us. So, it is always with great delight accompanied by girlish giggles when we get the opportunity to review a newly released PC adventure title for The Laser. Unfortunately, it seems that in the past several years the once great genre has fallen under bleak times, with only a handful of above average titles actually hitting the shelves of our favorite gaming store. It is also unfortunate that the latest release from the Adventure Company, Curse of Atlantis: Thorgal's Quest, wasn't able to keep our spirits up about the adverse decline of one of computer gaming's original genres
As with most adventure PC games, Curse of Atlantis bases itself around a set storyline, allowing players to immerse themselves in a specific character. In this case, players take on the role of Thorgal, a displaced Atlantean warrior shipwrecked on a small Viking island. While trying to make his way back home, our protagonist is shown a horrific vision of a possible future where his son is slain in cold blood in front of his family. Unfortunately for our hero, it looks like he's the one who's doing the killing. Horrified about the possible future that awaits him, Thorgal desperately searches for a way off of his imposed prison. Doing so isn't as easy as getting on another boat, however. In order to return to his family and hopefully prevent the tragedy, Thorgal must battle mythical creatures, outwit devious bandits, and piece together a mystery that will bring the pieces of the warriors' past, present, and future together in a way that no one could imagine.
With an intriguing and potentially epic back story like this, one would think that Curse of Atlantis would be a monumental adventure game, right? That was not the case, unfortunately. The trappings were all there, but the execution of the game sunk like a large boulder tossed into a deep fish pond. While the tale surrounding CoA was interesting, it seemed detached from the gameplay as a whole. Most of the story elements were actually explained through 3D rendered cut scenes, which were quite well produced, artistic in style, and extremely fascinating to watch. Without solid gaming traits to back the cut scenes, we found that the game just couldn't hold our attention for long periods of time.
Luck would have it that CoA wasn't that long of a game, so even with our excitement levels waning, we still could muddle our way through the 3rd person gameplay in under 5 hours time. Most of the game revolves around searching for various objects (or just 'happening' upon them) as Thorgal explores various locales. Sooner or later, those nifty little items picked up will be used for various types of activities, puzzles, and the like that can help our hero pass on to the next level of exploration. Again, nothing new or enticing about the 'adventuring' or really that difficult could be found within CoA, save for the old school 3D dragon push-styled puzzle found early in the game (which did admittedly throw us for a loop early on). The only real surprise came during the end portion of the game, where the whole theme changes to something completely different and wholly unexpected. We don't want to give away any spoilers here, but let's just say things get a little 'futuristic', putting the whole Atlantis myth into perspective.
As far as the in-game aesthetics went, we were also a little disappointed as well. Although Curse of Atlantis wasn't the worst designed adventure game we've ever played, it definitely wasn't the best. Most of the title revolves around detailed painted matte backgrounds with inserted 3-D textures for in-game mechanics (such as the game's characters like Thorgal, an items and objects that can be used or picked up while exploring). Where as the detail of the backdrops in the game where well designed and obviously thought out, the 3-D aspects were on the opposite spectrum. Characters models were rough and blocky, giving a feel of extremely poor video resolution. The usable objects and items found in the game also stuck out like a sore thumb from the artistic backgrounds, making it all too easy in figuring where you were supposed to look for items, clues, and the like. Adding to our dismay were the odd use of voiceover talent within the game: while the actors did have decent acting abilities, everything sounded like it was recorded in a large and hollow tin can. The real saving grace again for the game was found in the above average cut-scene animations which hands down blew away any visual found in the game: they were well produced, visually stunning, and compelling to watch.
Wrapping things up, Curse of Atlantis wasn't the adventure game that we were hoping for. While its back story and theme were both solid and interesting at first, the gameplay elements were just mediocre and didn't possess enough 'chutzpah' to keep us going for the duration of the game. Newcomers to the adventure genre of gaming might find getting into Curse of Atlantis a little difficult due to its less than cohesive gameplay. Old school fans of the tried and true gaming form on the other hand shouldn't have as much difficulty with the overall experience, save for the shortness of the title as a whole. Still, most of the puzzles and activities were at least slightly challenging, forcing us to think about what we were doing more often than not. Not only that, but the price of the game should also be a bonus to most PC gamers, with a retail cost of less than $20.00. Maybe Curse of Altantis isn't the best adventure game in the world, but for what you're given it's worth the price.